How parents can hack bad digital parenting
Some common questions about digital parenting include wondering what makes parenting so different today? There are several ways parents can hack bad digital parenting. Parents today are raising digital citizens and there are certainly some unique skills required.
Digital Age and Parenting
The first element to note is the digital age we live in and because of technology and social media, life, as we knew it is so different. Everybody’s access to the world and content is absolutely and fully unfiltered.
Anybody can access any information, anyone, and any knowledge at the touch of the button. So, for parents, it means that you are parenting from a place where you do not have control over what your child knows and do not have absolute knowledge about everything. Parents never did have all the answers but in the past, it was much easier to appear so and control what your child knew.
Digital media has drastically changed how parents and children communicate, enjoy themselves, acquire information and solve daily problems daily. Very young children are regular users of smartphones and tablets, so their early digital engagement poses new challenges to parent-child relationships and parental roles.
So, basically, it’s really critical that we realise that the digital age does make parenting today very different because of technology. Access to technology and social media does shift the dynamics of raising children. If your child is a young millennial or generation Z, then all they know is a fully digital world. They think digital-first. And for a lot of us who are raising children now, that’s not our reality.
This is a really big part of the tension, it is coming from the fact that you are essentially raising children today in a fully digital world and this is the first time this is happening. So, we are all living through the experience together.
Things parents are getting wrong in raising digital children
Stop struggling with the popularity and prevalence of social media; the question is not about being online or not. In reality today, nobody can live their lives fully offline; we are all connected to the digital world in some capacity. So, it’s really not about either-or; rather it is about and how do you have a healthy blend and harmony between the two. This should be the overarching principle.
Not engaging with your child
I have asked some young adults and teenagers why they think there’s so much fight between children and their parents. One common answer is that they wish their parents would engage with them in a more positive way and stop being suspicious every time they see them online.
For example, this means every time you are engaging with your child, you’re not coming from a place of suspicion or judgment. This tends to happen a lot when the first thing that comes out of your mouth as a parent is a comment about how much time your child does spend on their phones or devices. Have you ever found yourself saying, “there you are again, pressing your phone is that all you know?”
Those kinds of comments just irritate your teenagers. You actually have no clue what your child is doing online. When it comes to digital parenting, it is advisable that you change your tone to be more engaging rather than accusatory. Even if you feel they’ve been on for a long time, rather than just show up and engage with an attack or accusation; change your language. You could ask if they are doing schoolwork or playing video games. Having that open conversation changes the conversation from suspicion to curiosity.
Not Building Trust
Parents need to build a level of trust. Now, if you are getting to a point where you cannot believe your child when he or she tells you what they are doing online or how long they’ve been spending online, then there’s a bigger problem. If you haven’t already done so you need to have a conversation about screen time management and digital well-being.
The number one indicator of good digital parenting is keeping an open line of communication going with your children; talk early and often. It is not like the birds and the bees discussion, but rather it is more of an ongoing conversation that will move and shift as your child works her way through several key developmental stages. Stay calm. Be open and direct, but keep talking.
Lacking An Understand Of Your Child’s Interests
Truly learn about your child’s interest. Everybody has certain interests, right? And this is the same for the online world. So, if your child likes football and sports in the physical world, they are probably going to want to be playing football in both their physical and virtual world. A digital parenting skill requires that you actually spend time understanding your child’s interests are, and what they are doing online to support these interests.
Come with an open mind. If your child, for example, loves video games, you can ask your child to let you play with him or her. Allow yourself to become the student. It is not really about who wins the game, but your child would love the fact that mom or dad is actually taking an interest in their world.
Engage with your children, you could make it a date and watch their favourite Youtube channels or TikTok videos with them. Every time you come into your child’s world in an open and engaging way, you will see the child actually light up.
It is important that parents don’t just see the digital world like this big wall that once your children are behind it, you feel you cannot reach them. Spend quality time in their digital world with them in a non-judgmental way.
Not Discussing The Immense Benefits Of The Digital World
Our children have the capacity and the ability for the first time in the world to learn anything they want; thanks to the digital world we live in. Digital parenting includes helping them use digital in the right way and having the right relationship with the power of content and the Internet. Imagine you help them to see the power they have at the tip of their fingertips versus fighting them about everything digital.
Rather, help them know that you know there’s never been a time like this before and encourage them not to take it for granted. Help your children understand that they can control how they show up online and explore how you want to access content and the online world for good. Make it a habit to ask them what new things they are learning and encourage them to pursue and deepen their interests. Now, imagine how much of an open conversation that would be.
I have seen this first hand by taking the time to understand things from my children’s perspective. When it comes to digital parenting, you are bound to come across some shocking content. However, it is important to reduce the drama and calmly note whatever they share with you. Later on, you go revisit the conversation with, “Can we talk about this a little bit more?” But not in that moment (if you cannot do it calmly. If you react with drama when they bring you into their virtual world, they will shut you out. And next time you try it they will not be as ready to open up to you.
Expect the best from your children, because children would live up to what you expect of them. So, if you expect them to always be doing something dodgy or inappropriate online, they are going to live up to that. But rather, engage them from a place of positivity. Then your child starts to know that you expect him or her to be doing good things online. It is such a subtle difference with such a powerful and positive effect.
Contributed by Yetty Williams
Parenting Coach | Founder/CEO LagosMums
LagosMums is a parenting and family resource for mums, parents, and caregivers.
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